A Savage Soap Opera

Another weekend, another set of movies to review and this time I’m starting with the latest “action” flick to grace the theaters.  The movie I’m talking about is Savages, which stars Taylor Kitsch as Chon, Aaron Johnson as Ben, and Blake Lively as O, who are three lovers involved in an odd romantic situation.  Perhaps what is even more unique about their lives is the business the three of them work in, which is none other than making illegal drugs to sell to various people in California.  Although life seems to be great for the trio, and fairly hippy like, a wrench gets thrown into their gears when a big time drug cartel led by Elena (Salma Hayek).  O’s two lovers then decide they must do everything in their power to rescue her, or die trying as they set out into the drug underworld.

Now if you’re like me and you saw the trailers, this movie was made to look like an Army of Two tribute where two guys go in and overthrow Hispanic drug lords.  Unfortunately I was fooled by the trailers yet again, since this movie is more a soap opera than anything else.  Yes my friends those looking for shoot them up action are going to be disappointed as the only action in this movie comes from a couple of sniper shots, and few explosive blasts that look like something a teenage Michael Bay would dream upThe movie instead decided to swap the action with bloody torture scenes instead, which were a little grueling to watch as they really left no bloody details out.  Now many might be ready for blood since the modern horror movie movement has desensitized most audience members.  Unlike those movies though, the blood and dismemberment looks real and isn’t a result of some cheesy, imaginary kill that takes away from the fake blood.  There are also a few graphic rape scenes/sex scenes the crew was happy to show, which were a little more uncomfortable for this reviewer.

Although a key aspect of this movie is torture and blood, there are some other features to this movie that are worth mentioning.  For one thing the acting for most of the cast was excellent, most of them capturing the emotions and mannerisms of their characters.  Kitsch for instance captures the soulless, ruthless, outlaw type of a soldier returning from war.  Using his pent up emotions to drive his actions, Kitsch played the cold blooded hunter ready to take any steps to obtaining his price.  Unlike John Carter though, most of his scenes involve him wearing a shirt, so sorry ladies you’ll have to make due.  Helping to counterbalance the aggressive fighter is Ben the negotiator, whose morals for making drugs are noble and admirable.  Johnson had the right characteristics for the part; the calm eyes, the mellow persona, and the nervous energy during crucial decision were all well combined to give his character a conscience.  Like the chemistry in X-men first class, Kitsch and Johnson are another dynamic duo that work well together to create tension and suspense in the scenes.  As for Lively, well this role was a little more mellow and drug dependent for me, as her poetic lines and sullen mood were a little bland for my tastes.  As for playing the victim, well she did a decent job playing a victim on the brink of giving up hope, yet at times she was a little one dimensional for a character.  The bad guys however were actually well designed and crafted to help drive the plot and bring the audience’s hatred to a boil.  Lado (Benicio Del Toro) in particular was a villain who had the look and actions worthy of an enforcer, yet also had another side that gave his character a twisted edge that made him even deadlier.

The character development was not the only thing that was well done.  For me, the drug underworld was brought to life in this movie in both setting and storyline.  The seedy nature and treacherous faces of the cartel were integrated and portrayed to show just how fragile the trust between members is.  At any point you wonder who the heads are going to kill next, or wonder what means they are willing to take to get their goals.  Like a chess match between two champions, the strategy and resourcefulness of the parties involved is realistically portrayed, though sometimes overstretched, to help keep the power struggle interesting.  Yet, with this realism comes some graphic and heartbreaking kills that can take its toll on your emotions.  Numerous shots to the head, various characters killed without remorse, and a soulless execution of savage acts gets a little old and tedious as the movie goes on.  If the ending had been stronger and a little less vague, perhaps this violent killing over illegal drugs would have been a little more tolerable.  Yet, the monologue at the end leaves the movie open for another sequel, and left me a little disappointed.

Savages is definitely a movie that lives up to its title with its bloody tortures, shots to the head, and emotionless threatening games.  The glorification of the synthesis and selling of illegal drugs for the right reasons is also a little disturbing to see.  However, the great character development, setting, and portrayal of a drug cartel are definite strengths of this movie.  As a result, my scores for this movie are the following:

Crime/Drama/Thriller:  8.0

Movie Overall:  6.0

My suggestion, rent it and avoid the theater as there are no special effects or storylines that make it worth a trip to theater.  So until next time my friends enjoy the movies and as always leave feedback to help me get better.

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